A new fighting spirit

UFC veteran’s visit demonstrates growing interest in the sport

Côté’s seminar drew between 15 and 20 participants, ranging from school-aged to roughly 50 years old.
Côté’s seminar drew between 15 and 20 participants, ranging from school-aged to roughly 50 years old.

Next spring, French-Canadian fighter Patrick Côté will meet the country’s next great fighter.

As a coach for television show The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Australia, he’ll mentor a group of Canada’s top prospects as they compete for a coveted Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) contract.

Before he enters the limelight once again, the Rimouski, Quebec native visited Kingston last weekend to pass on his Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) knowledge at the Hayabusa Academy, a recreational combat training centre in the city’s east end.

Most seminar attendees were local, with a few hardcore practitioners coming in from out of town. Côté was pleased with the turnout, with approximately 15 to 20 attendees ranging from school-aged to roughly 50 years old.

“Everyone was open-minded,” Côté said. “It’s great when you teach something that people want to learn.”

Côté has fought professionally for 11 years, competing regularly in the UFC since 2004. The Hayabusa seminar was a far cry from the ones he taught in his early days as a fighter.

“Seminars back in the day were more underground — more tough guys and doormen,” he said. “Now it’s more young guys. They start very young and I think that’s good.”

Still, this increase in recreational participants hasn’t led to a surge in high-level Canadian fighters.

Before his career in the UFC began, Côté fought for a Montreal-based organization called TKO. The organization was a springboard for a number of future superstars, including current Canadian pros Georges St-Pierre, Sam Stout and TJ Grant.

“Everyone who is in the UFC now, especially Canadian, we all fought [in] TKO,” Côté said.

The league was a touchstone of French fighting culture until it went out of business in 2008.

Côté is proud of Quebec’s position as a longtime hub of Canadian combat sports, but said there are now fewer opportunities for up-and-coming fighters to compete for big purses at home.

Inspiring a new generation of Canadian fighters is one reason why Côté was eager to sign up to appear on The Ultimate Fighter.

“Because, man, we’re getting old,” he said.

Québecois fighter Olivier Aubin-Mercier, who tried out for the show, is a new face who Côté feels has tremendous potential.

“He almost went to the last Olympic Games in judo and I think he has a great chance to make the [TUF Nations] team.”

Côté’s visit to the Kingston academy was an opportunity for local athletes to learn from a Canadian fight icon. The seminar had something for everyone, from eager youth to seasoned amateurs to weekend warriors.

The days of underground fight clubs have long passed and the norm has shifted to refined facilities catering to athletes of all types. Ashley Hoskin, a Queen’s PhD student, is one such athlete.

“I’ve been interested in kickboxing for several years, but was slightly intimidated to join without having prior boxing experience,” said Hoskin, who took up fitness kickboxing at Hayabusa last month.

“After my first class, I was hooked.”

Hoskin’s experience is reflective of MMA becoming more accessible for the casual practitioner.

“Everyone is so supportive of each other,” she said.

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